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South By Southwest (SXSW) - A crossroads of talent and business, events and music

Lithium Alumni (Retired)

SXSW is a community, a place to come as you are, to learn fast, be real and connect.  It’s a community of techies, innovators, influencers and enthusiasts, expressing their ideas, sharing thoughts and images and exploring their interests.  Despite the abundance of people absorbed in their mobile devices, here, meaningful connections are possible, made real time and face-to-face.  SXSW is where Shaquille O’Neal meets Brian Solis and Ashton Kucher can be found scouting for investment in the latest start up technology.  One thing’s for certain, there is every kind of experience you can think of available to you… and heaps of ‘swag’. 


By day, SXSW is content rich, so it’s a real challenge to build a schedule and decide where to focus your attention.  You want to see and hear it all, but it’s impossible.  Some of the topics and themes competing for attention at this year’s SXSW were:


Big Data & Gamification…Of Everything


If, in the early nineties, somebody told you there would be a central repository where you would put all your personal information and pictures of your family and friends. One that would track where you’ve been and who you were with, and it would all be made public and accessible to anyone, what would you have said?  Today, we do that readily, without hesitation, ok well, some, but… we get something for it.  This exchange is becoming increasingly common for enterprises.  The trick for the enterprise, is how to strike an even balance of give and get while still maintaining a steady stream of more data.  Gamifying everyday and mundane tasks is the increasingly common method of maintaining that steady stream.  We will begin to see gamification in nearly every area of our lives, creating a challenge of managing more and more data.  But that data will be fundamentally ‘dirty.’  Solutions that make this cleaner are in demand and we will begin to see these types of tools emerge in the next several years.  Jeremiah Owyang’s panel was a powerful session on data and gamification in a standing room only venue.  I found it interesting that when the panel was asked the question, “In which industry do you think gamification could not be applicable?” There was complete silence.


Nate Silver, our keynote speaker at LiNC 2013  made one succinct point about this particular challenge for enterprise in his presentation at SXSW. 

“Big Data=Big Problems”


Images – Most desirable social content


Our friends at Image Think, the artists behind the Lithium LiNC 2011 Brand Nation wall were using graphic recording for all this year’s SXSW Keynotes, a few of them here:



3-D Printing



Day One Keynote – Opening Remarks. “Join the next industrial revolution“ Bre Pettis of MakerBot talked about the 3D Printing revolution and how this disruptive technology could revolutionize manufacturing in the future.  Hardware emerged as a theme this year with this particular new technology BrePettis2 byImageThink.jpgstealing headlines. Do I see a MakerBot community in the future?



 Space & Reusability


Day Two Keynote - Elon Musk of Tesla, Solar City and SpaceX. Reusable Rockets! Green Tech and Solar. The future of space travel and exploration. SpaceX aims to develop and launch reusable rockets at a fraction of the cost of a NASA mission, and bring them back down with the ease and accuracy of a helicopter. His passion to build rockets centers around getting humans to Mars. ElonMusk by ImageThink.jpg He believes, “That’s the best thing we can do to ensure the existence of humanity.” He quotes himself, “People have heard me say, I would like to die on Mars, just not on impact”  I especially like the lower right comment in this sketchnote.

DIY & Work-Life Balance


Day Three Keynote – Tina Roth Eisenberg focuses on work life balance and encourages creative collaboration and innovation. In her presentation she gave us her ‘eleven rules to live by’, peppering her presentation with inspirational quotes. (These are a blog post alone)  Tina, the founder of TeuxDeux, TinaEisenberg.jpga task management platform, emphasized investing your life in what you love, surrounding yourself with like-minded people, continuing to work on side projects you care about and most poignantly, to try not complain, just make things better.


 Wearable Technology & Personal Measurement


Wearable sensor devices used to just allow users to track metrics like steps per day and heart rate. Now we’re going beyond counting steps, measuring glucose, sleep patterns, detecting breast cancer, augmenting senses.  ‘Wearables’ like the FitBit, Nike+ and FuelBand are now mainstream in the health and fitness space.  Reductions in size and cost of these sensors and advances in data science are fueling this new trend of ‘quantifying the self’. 
Augmented Self.jpgMany new devices and related apps can also apply body-generated data to social networking, gaming, commerce, and productivity, making the data applicable and applying meaningful context.  The goal is to use the data to motivate healthy behavioral changes, and often works more effectively when it’s tied to a social system.




Apart from all the exciting content and new products demanding attention, SXSW is the place for networking. The evening events schedules are as vast as the daytime programming, and just as commanding of your attention.  However, even if you never managed to get into the crowded sessions or parties you planned on, you’re meeting people while you wait in line.   It’s happening at every corner of the city. You’re in line with people you met at a previous session, from another country. You’re in line getting coffee with someone who’s used your service or knows your co-worker.  You’re in line with a group of people in your industry.  The value of SXSW is reaching like-minded people you virtually might never meet otherwise, and you’re doing it in a very real and present way. And isn’t that what community is all about?









1 Comment
Khoros Expert

Thanks for this excellent article DeAnna. It feels like i was there with you all Smiley Very Happy